Mark Nesbitt talks about the filming of
Mysterious Journeys on The Travel Channel
Since the Travel Channel's Mysterious Journeys segment on the Ghosts of Gettysburg first aired in October of 2008, I have received a few e-mails that have voiced concerns, and dozens of others that were positive and asked for more information on paranormal investigations, equipment, etc. The concerns seem to be thematic with 1) how, as a historian, I work with our medium, 2) how programs are made for television and, 3) the historical research done for and by our medium.
As to how I work with Investigative Medium Laine Crosby:
One of the complaints was that our Investigative Medium, Laine, "didn't know her history" and I didn't correct her when her history didn't agree with history available on the world wide web.
First and foremost, I never tell Laine anything about the history of the site we are to visit. That would negate any real psychic information received at the site. In most cases, I try to set up classic "double-blind" experiments: I'll choose five or six historic sites, then randomly visit only two or three. That way, even I don't know where we will end up ... so there is no way she can "study-up" on the history of the site and "fake" getting historically correct information. I try never to react to what she comes up with during an investigation- sometimes to the point of not answering her questions and appearing rude. A classic way many well-known psychics get their "other worldly" information is actually by reading the reactions of their audience. If I were to react and "tip off' a psychic/medium when she was wrong historically, it would help her to eliminate what she "receives."
The fact that Laine "messed up" the history by appearing to say that Isaac Trimble had been shot in the side and died in that room is only proof that she hadn't studied about the Lady Farm or Isaac Trimble. But that is not what she said during the actual filming of the segment.
The editing process in television productions:
The production company for the Travel Channel spent two weeks in Gettysburg and shot approximately 70 hours of tape-all for a 45 minute (minus 15 or so minutes of time for commercials) program. It wasn't Isaac Trimble, the Confederate general, with whom Laine was speaking, but the editing done in California made it appear that way. What was edited out of Laine's reading was that after she got the name "Isaac Trimble," who was a relatively famous person who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, she went on to hear that the person with whom she was communicating was NOT Trimble himself, but had been commanded by Trimble, and was from Georgia. At Gettysburg, the man had been shot in the torso. Paranormal investigators must word their questions very carefully. I asked, "Did he die here in this room?" Laine became incredibly sad at that moment and said, "He didn't know he had died." I had committed a grave error in the field of paranormal studies: You never tell the spirit with whom you are communicating that they have died because many are not aware of that fact. That explained the look on Laine's face as she heard the man say, "You mean I'm dead?" (It is indeed a mysterious place, the land of the dead.)
The remarkable thing is that Laine came up with the name "Isaac Trimble," a name she'd never heard before. I remember her struggling with it as the information came to her: "Trem ... Tremble ... " A long pause. She asked, "What is the first name, please?" Another long pause as she listened intently. "Isaac? Isaac Tremble" She listened and that was the name she heard. (All of this was edited out.) I had heard of Isaac Trimble, of course, but didn't connect him with the Lady Farm. Laine also got "Earl." I thought she was saying "Ewell," but she may have been coming up with "Early"- Jubal A. Early, another Confederate officer associated with Ewell's 2nd Corps, and another remarkable psychic "hit" by Laine.
The drawbacks of using the internet for historical research:
The internet has given virtually everyone almost instantaneous access to general facts.
Unfortunately, not all historical sources are available there. After concern was raised about Trimble's psychic "presence" at the Lady Farm, I checked my personal library, compiled over the last 30 years as a writer and researcher and containing much from my 6 years as a National Park Service Ranger/Historian at Gettysburg. I found some interesting things.
According to Trimble's own Civil War Diary (located in the Maryland Historical Society archives and published in the MD Historical Magazine, Vol. XVII in 1922), he was operated on by "Drs McGuire, Black & Hays" (Trimble's quote) on Saturday, July 4. McGuire (Hunter H.) first served as a line officer with the 2nd Virginia, "Stonewall Brigade," then became Stonewall Jackson's surgeon until Jackson's death in May of 1863. During the re-organization of the 2nd Corps, McGuire served as Chief Surgeon for the 2nd Corps under Ewell at Gettysburg. Would he have bivouacked with old friends in the Stonewall Brigade (on the Lady Farm) at Gettysburg, just a few weeks after Jackson's death? I think it very likely.
We know McGuire was already in the vicinity because he visited another of Jackson's former staff members who had been wounded, Henry Kyd Douglas, at a farm on the Hunterstown Road, just a few miles away, on July 3. (I Rode with Stonewall, by H. K. Douglas). McGuire did not operate on Douglas or apparently spend much time with him according to Douglas; just a quick visit, then McGuire moved on.
A second confirmation to Trimble's diary is in McGuire's biography in the Southern Historical Society Papers. It states that McGuire amputated Trimble's leg. Dr. Harvey Black, who was named as one of Trimble's surgeons, was also one of Jackson's surgeons, serving in the 4th Virginia Regiment, Stonewall Brigade, Johnson's Division, which was bivouacked on the Lady Farm. Trimble, having been wounded in 1862, was without a command before Gettysburg. He attached himself to Ewell's Corps on June 28, no doubt re-acquainting himself with his fellow soldiers in the corps. Trimble had commanded a brigade earlier in the war in Ewell's Division and almost got the command of Johnson's Division before Gettysburg. We also know that on the evening of July 1, Trimble claims to have had a very famous contretemps with Ewell about attacking Culp's Hill wherein he threw down his sword and exclaimed that he refused to serve under such an officer, linking Trimble with Ewell/Johnson and Johnson's headquarters at the Lady Farm. Although Trimble was wounded in Pickett's Charge on July 3, would he have requested to be operated on by surgeons he knew and trusted? As a high-ranking officer he, no doubt, would have been accommodated.
According to Gregory Coco in his book, A Vast Sea of Misery, a guide to the field hospitals at Gettysburg after the battle, Trimble's leg was amputated at the Samuel A. Cobean Farm just north of Gettysburg on the Carlisle Road. What Laine had picked up on was someone talking about Trimble, perhaps the soldier who had been wounded in the side.
One e-mail correspondent was irate and insisted that Laine's picking up on Trimble's energy was impossible, because Trimble didn't die at the Lady Farm. Trimble did not get command of Major General William Dorsey Pender's Division until after that officer was wounded on July 2, and so was likely with his old division, at the Lady Farm, until then, or off petitioning Lee for the command he finally received. As an officer he would have had access to the Lady farmhouse. Did he leave a psychic imprint there? Perhaps. It is well known in paranormal studies, that one's psychic energy can be imbedded or imprinted on a site without one having to die there.
As well known as Trimble was in Johnson's Division, and especially with two of the three surgeons who had amputated his limb associated with the units bivouacked at the Lady Farm, it is very likely his name would have at least been mentioned there. If so, his men, some of whom he had once commanded, may have inquired about him, especially if they had once served under him. It was not Trimble's energy, but someone he had once commanded that Laine picked up on. (This, as I mentioned before, was edited out of the final cut.)
In addition, no one was more surprised than I when I first saw the program and they talked about G.W. Sandoe being a Confederate soldier and being killed near Cashtown. In reality, Sandoe, who was one of the first soldiers to be killed in the battle, was a Federal and was killed south, not west, of Gettysburg. The mistake is a result of filming in Gettysburg and editing in Hollywood, where there are precious few Gettysburg historians!
The film crew was a highly professional group and spent 2 weeks putting 70 hours of tape "in the can." However, in the editing process things got cut, turned around, and generally re-arranged.
Fortunately, most of the viewers (Travel Channel programs get some 77 million) understood the program for what it was: a program on the mysteries of paranormal phenomena. They also appreciated the good things that resulted from the program: Five never before filmed haunted venues in Gettysburg were brought to light; that Scott Crownover shared with them one of the biggest break-throughs in the field of paranormal research in decades: his technique of taking photographs of spirits in the daylight; that Laine accomplished the incredible feat of correctly identifying (by psychically "talking" to him) Mr. "Culbertson" a local soldier whose name appears in the historical records of the men from Gettysburg who fought in the Civil War; and finally, that Gettysburg remains one huge laboratory for paranormal research and not just an obscure historical event many people (sadly) merely gloss over.
The bottom line is that this was "Mysterious Journeys" on the "Travel Channel "and not the "History Channel." The emphasis therefore was more on the paranormal aspects of the story. Some historical latitude is in order. My philosophy is that whatever gets people interested in the history of Gettysburg and the Civil War is productive.